When veterans participate in training exercises or high-risk operations, they commonly sustain severe joint injuries which may result in chronic and degenerative conditions or diseases. In some cases, the complications restrict mobility, diminish earning potential, and threaten to upend veterans’ financial stability.
Fortunately, the Department of Veterans Affairs extends disability benefits to various kinds of arthritis and/or joint injuries causally linked to military service. These benefits are designed to provide financial assistance to injured veterans and range from special monthly compensation (SMC) and Total Disability Individual Unemployability (TDIU) to Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC) and housing grants.
If you served in the military and subsequently developed any of the following joint diseases and injuries, consider contacting us today to learn more about the eligibility of your claim and the disability rating to which you may be entitled.
Table of contents
- Types of Arthritis Connected to Military Service
- Disability Rating for Service-Connected Joint Injuries
- The Importance of Legal Representation for VA Disability Benefits Appeals
- Why Choose Dolman Law for Your VA Disability Benefits Claim
- Contact Dolman Law Group for Help with Your VA Disability Benefits Claim
Types of Arthritis Connected to Military Service
Arthritis is a highly common but debilitating condition that results in the inflammation of the cartilage located between bone joints. Although it regularly occurs with age, veterans who participate in strenuous activities during training and deployment may develop it at an earlier point in their lives.
In less severe cases, arthritis does not prove entirely inhibitive. However, advanced conditions can result in the degradation of major joint groups and limit an individual’s ability to work and participate in normal activities.
Osteoarthritis (Degenerative Arthritis) and VA Disability Benefits
Degenerative arthritis is one of the most common and severe joint injuries veterans frequently sustain while in service. A chronic condition, degenerative arthritis worsens over time and can gradually decrease veterans’ mobility, earning potential, and financial stability.
As the condition advances, it has the potential to cause a breakdown of the joints and may even result in the development of osteophytes (bone spurs). On account of the pain and day-to-day limitations it imposes, the VA offers veteran claimants suffering from osteoarthritis the opportunity to seek disability benefits.
Pursuant to the Code of Federal Regulations, the VA is obligated to adjudicate degenerative arthritis claims “on the basis of limitation of motion”. Provided they establish a service connection, claimants can receive an additional 10% disability rating for each “major joint or group of minor joints” afflicted with the condition.
Regular symptoms of this degenerative disease include:
- Joint stiffness
- Joint tenderness
- Joint pain
- Decreased flexibility
- Soft tissue inflammation
Rheumatoid Arthritis and VA Disability Benefits
Alongside osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis accounts for the majority of arthritis diagnoses in the United States. However, RA is an autoimmune disease and can result in far more and far greater disabilities than other joint conditions.
This chronic disease often prompts the body to attack synovial membranes, which surround the various anatomical components of the joint. In between flare-ups and remissions, rheumatoid arthritis even has the potential to damage the heart, blood vessels, lungs, eyes, and skin.
With the accompanying deterioration of the bones and joint deformities, advanced RA can seriously impair a veteran’s daily life. Consequently, the VA employs a complex disability rating adjudication system to allot financial assistance to claimants with RA. If an RA diagnosis becomes entirely incapacitating, veterans may even become eligible to draw on TDIU benefits to maintain their and their families’ financial security.
Common symptoms of service-connected rheumatoid arthritis include:
- Joint stiffness, pain, or aching
- Weight loss
Ankylosis and VA Disability Benefits
As with most other arthritis conditions, ankylosis damages the precious cartilage separating bones at the joint and can worsen over time. In fact, a unique physical consequence of ankylosis is the fusion of joints, especially vertebrae in the spinal column, which may result in:
- Hip paint
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Limitation of motion in the fingers
- Difficulty breathing
In ankylosis diagnoses which severely limit the motion of the fingers, veterans may even be advised to seek an amputation of the “ankylosed” digit(s). The VA commonly considers ankylosis conditions as “favorable” or “unfavorable”, and assigns disability ratings commensurate with the severity of the impairment.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and VA Disability Benefits
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition that arises from the excessive compression of the median nerve around the wrist. Given the importance of the median nerve in forearm motility and sensory perception, carpal tunnel can prove debilitating, worsen over time, and even result in nerve damage.
Rheumatoid arthritis or previous bone fractures often exacerbate CTS, whose symptoms include:
- Numbness or tingling in the affected hand
- Weakness in the affected hand
- Pain in the affected hand
- Pain in the affected shoulder
- Swollen sensation in affected fingers
Veterans suffering from CTS are eligible to seek disability benefits from the VA, pursuant to diagnostic code 8515 in the Code of Federal Regulations. In order to qualify for financial assistance, claimants must provide proof of diagnosis and establish a service connection in their initial claim.
Gout and VA Disability Benefits
Depending on the severity of the diagnosis, veterans who suffer from gout may experience weekly or monthly flare-ups that restrict mobility and comfort. This incurable and chronic disease results in the buildup of uric acid crystals (gout crystals) which irritate the synovial membranes surrounding foot joints.
The condition can worsen over time and may result in:
- Intense joint pain
- Extreme sensitivity around the joint
- Burning sensation in the affected joint
- Red skin above the affected joint
In accordance with diagnostic code 5017, the VA assigns disability ratings for gout based on the regularity and intensity of flare-ups.
Post-Traumatic Osteoarthritis and VA Disability Benefits
For former prisoners of war, the VA recognizes as a presumptive condition post-traumatic osteoarthritis. Although it is more or less identical to degenerative arthritis, osteoarthritis which occurs shortly after sustained and serious physical trauma commonly afflicts the:
- Other major joint groups
In order to qualify for compensation from the VA for post-traumatic osteoarthritis, veteran claimants need only adduce proof of the diagnosis. The Department of Veterans Affairs may also ask claimants to participate in a Compensation and Pension (C&P) Exam to receive confirmation from a VA medical examiner.
Disability Rating for Service-Connected Joint Injuries
The Veterans Benefits Administration determines a claimant’s compensation figure by assigning them a disability rating. The rating is calculated with percentages and represents the severity of an applicant’s service-connected injury.
In most circumstances, veterans are required to prove both a diagnosis and its correlation to active service before receiving a disability rating from the VA. This “nexus” or “service connection” determines a claimant’s eligibility to access disability benefits from the Department.
However, certain diseases, conditions, or injuries are so definitively linked to specific service-related deployments, operations, or accidents that the VA automatically waives claimants’ need to establish a nexus. The “presumption of service connection” for “presumptive conditions” streamlines the adjudication of claims, and requires claimants only to provide proof of diagnosis.
The Importance of Legal Representation for VA Disability Benefits Appeals
The VA disability benefits system is oftentimes the best recourse veterans have to access sorely needed financial assistance. However, receiving the disability rating that you deserve can be a long and arduous process.
There are numerous levels to the VA disability benefits appeals process, and they each have distinct requirements, VA Forms, and average wait times. That is why many veterans decide to work alongside a qualified VA disability claims lawyer who understands the complexities and criteria promulgated by the Veterans Benefits Administration.
For claimants in pursuit of an increased disability rating or the acceptance of a previously denied disability benefits claim, acquiring legal representation can alleviate the otherwise strenuous burdens of:
- Filing Supplemental Claims
- Accessing additional medical documentation
- Requesting Higher-Level Reviews
- Appearing before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA)
- Seeking redress from the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC)
No one should have to tackle the intricate appeals process alone. Fortunately, experienced veterans’ disability claims lawyers are on standby to provide crucial advice, counsel, and support.
Why Choose Dolman Law for Your VA Disability Benefits Claim
When veterans decide to pursue disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, they deserve to have a tireless and determined advocate by their side every step of the way. Whether you need advice on how best to proceed or assistance in accessing requisite documentation, we want to help.
At Dolman Law Group, PA, our 120 combined years of personal injury law experience have given us the institutional knowledge and advantageous connections to assist veteran claimants with acquiring the financial compensation they deserve. With the individualized care of a small firm and the resources and influence of a nationwide practice, we have a proven track record of success and know how to get results.
If you served in the military and subsequently developed any of the preceding arthritis conditions, you may be eligible to receive monthly disability benefits from the VA. Given the oftentimes protracted VA appeals process, the sooner you speak with an experienced disability claims lawyer, the better.
Contact Dolman Law Group for Help with Your VA Disability Benefits Claim
The complexity of the disability benefits appeals process often appears overwhelming, and even the most scrupulous of online research can fail to clarify a claimant’s eligibility and options. At Dolman Law, we believe that every disability claim is unique and requires a tailored and thorough approach.
That is why our veterans disability lawyers offer free consultations for prospective clients, during which we can resolve any confusion, dispel common misconceptions, and devise an individualized strategy for success. If you have failed to acquire the disability rating you deserve for the joint injury you did not, consider contacting us today at (727) 451-6900.